By Jody Tuso-Key – Managing Editor
GAINESVILLE, GA – 11/12/2022
URINETOWN opened this weekend at Brenau’s Hosch theater presented by the Gainesville Theater Alliance, a partnership between University of North Georgia and Brenau University. Voted the best theater program in the Southeast, GTA is back in full force this year to bring us the acclaimed live theater for which they are so well known.
Don’t be turned off by the name, URINETOWN is a PG-13 recipe for satirical fun. The ingredients include a dash of breaking the 4th wall and a sprinkle of potty humor. Mix in a stream of dystopian themes, and you’ll get a healthy heaping of deep social commentary about government overreach and corporate greed.
Director Michael D. Jablonski’s program notes tell us, “It is a play that simultaneously celebrates and stirs the American Musical, by paying critical homage to the previous musicals that shaped the genre. German writer and director, Bertolt Brecht, created the idea of a show’s ability to both entertain and educate with self-referential humor, and use of a parody….(with a book by Gregg Kotis and music by Mark Hollimann) Urinetown suggests that if we don’t learn from our own mistakes, we are doomed to continue digging our own graves.”
URINETOWN opened on Broadway in 2001, and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and won 3: Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction of a Musical. Inspiration for the show came when Gregg Kotis was traveling in Europe and encountered a pay toilet which resulted in a musical about government and corporate regulation of an essential human right, the “privilege to pee”.
GTA has done a stellar job bringing this show to life. It was a “privilege to see” the invited dress and I was bowled over (see what I did there?) by the set, costumes, choreography, and performances.
The story centers around “Public Amenity #9”, run by the monopoly UGC (Urine Good Company–ironic on so many levels). At the opening Officer Lockstock (Darcy Barnfield-Jones) and Little Sally, a street urchin (Maddie Compton) offer “too much exposition” to explain how a drought caused a terrible water shortage and rendered private toilets a thing of the past. Citizens are forced to pay to use the amenities, and strict laws enforce accidents on the streets. Offenders are sent to “Urinetown”, never to be seen again.
Two star-crossed lovers, Hope Cladwell (Brooke Blackwell) and Bobby Strong (Savion Gates) imagine a better tomorrow, where people pee for free. Hope is the daughter of Cladwell B. Cladwell, CEO of UGC. Bobby is the assistant to Penelope Pennywise, who runs the filthy Amenity #9. When Bobby’s father, Old Man Strong (Brennan Farrell) runs out of money and uses the streets to relieve himself, Officer Lockstock and Officer Barrel (Daegan Bennett) arrest him and escort him to Urinetown.
Brooke Blackwell is outstanding as Hope. The first time I saw her was on the Hosch stage as a middle school student, playing JoJo in Play on Player’s production of Seussical. I have had the honor to see her in numerous productions. She is a true triple threat, with a voice like an angel. The harmonies she sings with Savion Gates (Bobby Strong) are heavenly and hope filled. Brooke’s and Savion’s characters carry the show with naive innocence and the belief that they can effect change if they believe it in their heart. The two have good chemistry on stage, and play wall off each other.
Darcy Barnfield Jones (Lockstock) and Maddi Compton (Little Sally) do a stellar job moving the story along. Theirs is an interesting friendship, Lockstock provides education to Little Sally about the ways of their world, and Sally acts as the conscience of the musical. I’ve also seen Maddie on stage through the years ever since she played Millie in a middle school production. It’s a treat to see our home-grown talent mature and blossom on stage.
Isabel Owens (Penelope Pennywise) brought the tough exterior her character commands and paired it with a powerful voice. Sammy Nelson, who never disappoints, was perfectly contemptable as Caldwell B. Cladwell–the kind of villain you love to hate.
Other key-noteworthy performances included Halli Rider (Little Becky Two-Shoes/Mrs. Millennium) and Brennan Farrell (Old Man Strong/Hot Blades Harry). The entire ensemble added to the story each in their own unique way. In addition, BRAVO to the set and costume teams for creating an amazing and authentic canvas for the performers.
URINETOWN is Speakeysie Recommended, runs until November 19th, and tickets can be purchased online at https://gainesvilletheatrealliance.org/performance/urinetown/. Get your tickets soon before they sell out!!